"Another Chamber of Commerce Day" my wife said this morning, opening the blinds to let in a torrent of sunshine. I'm here, but I still brood a bit about Northampton issues. I think about the snowpack building up in the hills, and I wonder what the spring thaw will bring.
The architecture of our city hall, with its four cute little towers, is emblematic of a city stuck in feudalism, where citizens are treated like subjects, and the biggest city departments are themselves little kingdoms. The DPW has its own distinct culture, and I remember the first time I went to one of their Wednesday nights meetings long ago as a fledgling city councilor. Its a male-dominated bastion, with a lot of joking and ironic references to new councilors. You knew your place as a petitioner, and you knew that the board and staff had more important fish to fry that to deal with things like traffic calming. I remember that the bowl passed around the table had butterscotch lifesavers in it.
Some time ago, as I remember, they did a much-ballyhoed national search for its executive director when the old one retired. They piled up the reference letters, wasted the time of a lot of good people coming to interview, and then gee, found that they had the best man working right there all the time, Edward Huntley. An insider's insider. The working body of the department is, by and large, a great group of hard-working geniuses who do a great job with aging equipment and minimal budgets, but the leadership of the department,both at the executive level and the board level, is not capable of leading or thinking too clearly about the important issues. Throwing taxpayers money at something is not a solution. Siphoning the water from behind that dam, cutting out the old cast iron valve with a cutting torch, and putting a new one in to regulate water levels is not anything that millions need to be spent on.